Vaccine candidate's ultra-cold requirements mean delivering it will be a challenge

Nov 11 2020, 3:41 am

Pfizer’s promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, which Canadian officials say creates logistical hurdles to delivering it.

The potential vaccine could be up to 90% effective, according early indications from clinical trials detailed in a Monday news release from Pfizer and BioNTech.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called those results promising, and BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry agreed it’s exciting news — with the caveat that trial data is not publicly available for review.

The major challenge with this vaccine candidate will be delivering it, Trudeau said. It needs to be cold, like really cold.

The vaccine vials need to be stored around -70C, Trudeau said at a news conference Tuesday.

“Indeed, the logistical requirements are complex,” he said. “That is a big challenge in order to transport and distribute the vaccine at those temperatures.”

Trudeau said he’ll be working with the provinces to develop a plan for storing, transporting, and distributing Pfizer’s product should it be successful. Canada has already signed a deal to acquire millions of units upon the candidate’s completion.

Henry confirmed at a news conference Monday that the BC Centre for Disease Control will work with the federal government to make a delivery strategy, and the City of Toronto has already created a municipal immunization task force to ensure it’s ready to roll out doses when a candidate gets the green light.

“There are not a lot of -70C freezers that are available in our communities,” Henry said. “It’s not going to be easy. But early in 2021 we should have vaccine to add to our tools to stop this pandemic.”

Trudeau added that several other vaccine candidates are in the works, and not all of them need ultra-cold storage as part of their delivery process.


Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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